In today’s working environment, productivity almost seems ephemeral. All day long, we’re bombarded by distractions ranging from persistent emails to client fires and, yes, Instagram stalking. In fact many of us spend a significant amount of time each day stressing over the fear of falling short of our productivity goals.
When it comes to increasing productivity, there’s both good and bad news. Let’s start with the good: anyone is capable of increasing their productive output each day, including you. Now for the bad news: productivity takes time and effort; it is not a light switch that can simply be flipped on and off at will. Becoming a more productive professional takes consistent and concerted effort and energy.
Here are a few daily habits and strategies you can start incorporating today to amplify your productivity and eliminate to-do list stress.
Everyone, regardless of title or experience level, falls into the trap of thinking that the only way to accomplish anything is to go it alone. No one is a lesser employee or teammate because they ask for help. In fact, more often than not, those who do raise their hands and welcome support are more effective at accomplishing their goals.
Ecommerce bridal retailer Azazie views collaboration as a pillar of their company’s success. In addition to encouraging internal collaborative efforts, the Azazie team also provides their clients with collaborative tools, like their bridesmaid dress showroom, to make it easier for brides to ask for help during the planning process and heed the opinions of their friends and families.
Taking advantage of digital collaborative tools for project management and team communications will help you feel more organized and supported throughout every phase of a project.
2. Tackle your hardest projects first.
Most of us tend to push our “hardest” projects to the end of our to-do-lists, but pushing off anything that we have “deemed” difficult only makes them loom larger in our minds and, subsequently, cause more stress.
According to Managing Partner and COO of Four Peaks Partners Michael Ayala, “If you’re fretting over a project that you’re persistently pushing off, you’re most likely tackling everything else on your to-do-list with only 50% capacity. Why create more stress for yourself than is necessary?”
Instead, try blocking off your first 1-2 hours each morning and devoting that time to the projects that require the most focus and brainpower. Then, when those are completed, you can complete some of the easier tasks, like answering emails or filling out timesheets, during the afternoon when your energy is on the decline.
3. Turn your phone off.
Smartphones are the enemy of productivity. If your phone is on and facing you as you’re trying to finish a report, you’ll be more tempted to check your text messages and scroll through your social apps. You may think that you’re perfectly capable of answering client emails or preparing presentations while chiming into your group thread or checking your daily steps in your Health Kit, but multi-tasking actually makes it more difficult to be effectively productive.
In fact, research shows that switching back and forth between tasks actually reduces your performance because your brain can only truly focus on one task at a time. What’s even worse is that serial multitasking may even result in a lower IQ as found a in a recent Stanford study.
It takes a lot of discipline to delegate phone-free times of the day, but doing so will likely cause your productivity to soar.
4. Take breaks.
We’re taught to believe that taking breaks is anti-productive, but it’s actually the opposite. Just as the muscles in our body get fatigued after a long run or strenuous workout our brain (the largest muscle in our bodies) also gets tired after periods of intense concentration. Even if you’re “on a roll” and think that stopping will throw off your workflow, it’s actually better to force yourself to stop at regular intervals.
“One common tactic I use to avoid mental fatigue is timeboxing. Time boxing is a technique that sets aside specific times within an hour for working and for relaxing,” says Russell Nicolet, attorney at Nicolet Law. “Timeboxing forces you to allocate specific start and stop times on your daily calendar for unique tasks.”
For example, you may set aside 9:00-9:50 am for editing and revising a presentation; this means that during those 50 minutes you cannot stop working on the presentation. At 9:50, you can then take a break, stretch your legs, and get yourself ready to tackle the next item on your to-do list at the top of the house.
Productivity is a state of mind. If you choose to be productive and incorporate daily habits that help you stay on track, it is possible to eliminate to-do list anxiety and enhance your overall workday performance.